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Cities take different approaches to marijuana

DOWNEY — After deciding July 25 that it would not allow any commercial marijuana operations, the City Council Oct. 10 approved a tough ordinance which not only bans commercial marijuana sales, cultivation and distribution, but calls for permits for those who may grow up to six plants in their homes under state law.

The vote, without any council comment, was 4-0 with Councilman Rick Rodriguez absent.

But officials in Bellflower, just south of Downey, agreed Oct. 9 to allow a second round of medical marijuana applications in hopes of ending up with 12, its previously stated goal. Currently only nine applicants are expected to be approved from the first round of applications. The vote for more applications was 5-0.

In Downey, Aldo Schindler, the city’s director of community development, said the state law allows cultivation of up to six marijuana plants in a private home for personal use by those over 21, but it does allow some restrictions.

He noted that Downey’s ordinance requires city permits for growing plants indoors, mandating that the growing area be secure, is not more than 50 square feet, does not violate any zoning rules and meets safety and fire protection regulations including a fire extinguisher nearby. It must have proper ventilation to remove odor and my not be visible from outside.

Marijuana may not be grown in a garage or in any structure in a front or side yard.

In a report to the council, City Planner David Blumenthal said the Downey Planning Commission Sept. 6 recommended approval of the ordinance but voiced concerns that a complete ban would go against a city plan to become a medical center and would prohibit private firms from conducting medical tests and research.

Because of that, the Downey ordinance allows such medical and clinical storage and testing, if approved under state and federal rules.

However, a check with the three major hospitals in Downey found that they did not plan any clinical marijuana testing, Blumenthal said.

Concerning medical marijuana, legal in California since 1996, City Attorney Yvette Abich Garcia said the Downey law does not forbid consumption in a person’s home. Thus someone with an ailment may use marijuana to ease pain but cannot purchase it in Downey.

Two young men in the audience opposed the ban, one stating that drunk driving is a worse problem than driving under the influence of marijuana. The other noted revenue generated for public projects to help the needy is derived by commercial marijuana operations.

Schindler noted that city ordinances banning commercial marijuana must be in place by the end of the year or the municipality would have no control and be regulated by state law.

The Downey City Council is expected to give final approval to the law Oct. 24. It would take effect in 30 days.

In Bellflower, City Manager Jeffrey L. Stewart said that 10 applications seeking 15 different permits are under consideration from the first batch of requests, submitted after the city’s marijuana ordinance took effect Sept 28.

But of that group, he estimated just nine permits would be approved for various operations.

Councilman Dan Koops said that revenue estimates were based on fees from 12 permits.

City Attorney Karl H. Berger said the city could legally open a second round of applications following the same rules as before.

However, the new applicants must have been among the 65 who attended an orientation meeting Sept. 6, Stewart said.

He stressed that regardless of the final number of applicants, no more than four permits to operate a medical marijuana dispensary would be given. The other permits could include growth, processing and delivery.

As before, the new permits would be submitted on line and accepted for review on a first-come basis by Meredian Consultants.

Final permit approval is expected after a public hearing in November or December and would be issued by Dec. 31. State law, allowing recreational marijuana, takes effect Jan. 1.

Those with city permits would also need one from the state under Proposition 64, approved by voters last November.

The cities of Artesia, Cerritos, Norwalk, Santa Fe Springs and Whittier have recently adopted laws banning any type of marijuana operation.

Cudahy allows the sale of medical marijuana only while Lynnwood allows only cultivation and manufacturing (growth and processing).

Maywood has reported issuing licenses to two operators. One has a permit for a dispensary, cultivation and processing while the second is licensed for manufacturing (processing), a spokesperson said.

Huntington Park has approved up to three licenses for medical marijuana sales but has not reported if anyone has met the city’s qualifications.

The Bell Gardens City Council was to study the issue Oct. 9 but not expected to take any formal action at that time, while the Pico Rivera City Council plans to discuss the issue Oct. 16, spokespersons said.

Monterey Park has a moratorium on marijuana operations while marijuana sales are currently not allowed in Paramount and South Gate, spokespersons for those cities said.